There has been recent research that suggests therapies that help people with chronic pain engage rather than avoid their complex emotional experience can improve psychologically and physically, as in their pain can improve. That is where Emotional Awareness and Expression Therapy (EAET) comes into play instead of CBT.

This was the goal “Patients with fibromyalgia (FM) experience increased lifetime levels of psychosocial adversity, trauma, and emotional conflict. To address these risk factors, we developed emotion awareness and expression therapy (EAET) and tested its benefits against an active control condition, FM education, and the field’s gold standard intervention for FM, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for symptom management.”

The study held 240 subjects separated into 40 groups. They were compared to CBT groups. And were assessed at baseline, post treatment and after 6 months.

In fact EAET performed substantially better on multiple outcomes after 6 months. But while EAET wasn’t different from CBT on many outcomes it was significantly so on reducing widespread pain and in the percentage of people gaining pain reduction. (at least 50% pain reduction from the baseline rates). Otherwise, CBT and EAET were similar.

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MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: This is the first large-scale study to show that directly addressing the emotionally difficult issues in patients’ lives improves their  fibromyalgia symptoms beyond providing an active control condition. Moreover, this is the first study to show superiority of one psychological intervention for fibromyalgia pain over another legitimate psychological intervention, in this case, the leading intervention in the field. Difficulty life experiences drive emotional struggles, and experiencing and expressing such emotions can be effective. 

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In the sense that therapy like this would engage in addressing the emotional suffering from pain it would likely reduce the perception of pain, but not the pain itself. When we address the distress caused by pain our perception of pain alters. How we manage it alters and how we cope with it alters. In that sense, it is a therapy to consider instead of CBT or in addition to. In the sense that ‘Patients with fibromyalgia (FM) experience increased lifetime levels of psychosocial adversity, trauma, and emotional conflict‘ I would say that is up for debate.

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